One day, you might spend several hours watching people julienne carrots on TV, then decide to throw the best dinner party the world has ever seen. Guests will beg for your recipes, quiver at the sight of your knife skills, and possibly even cry once they see how you’ve folded their napkins. “Don’t cry,” you’ll say, as you count every tear.
In reality, this party will most likely involve mismatched napkins, a lack of necessary silverware, and at least one person who claims to have eaten a very large lunch. If you’d like to see how things should have gone, plan a special occasion dinner at Momofuku Ko.
To get here, you walk through a bar area (Ko Bar) and another little hallway, then wind up in a room that feels less like a traditional fine dining spot, and more like a test kitchen in the common area of a newly renovated condo building. It’s dark and relatively quiet, with a mural on one wall, some bookshelves along another, and a dinner-party-appropriate soundtrack of bands like The Cure and The Velvet Underground. There are a few tables to one side where you can eat with a group - but coming here and not sitting at the bar is sort of like going to Jurassic Park and never getting out of your boring SUV. You want to sit at the counter, where you can talk to each chef who personally makes and delivers your food.
The only option at Momofuku Ko is an 11-course, $255 tasting menu (with service included). The menu changes frequently, but your meal will begin with a small snack like a puffed potato chip filled with creme fraiche, and then involve some things like a shot-sized pastry shell filled with lobster and basil foam, or a fried chicken oyster covered in a powder that turns into honey mustard on contact with your mouth. Around course five, you’ll probably receive a bowl filled with equal parts uni and fermented chickpea puree. It’s simple, served cold with a little bit of olive oil and sea salt, and it straddles the line between a dessert you’ll want every night before bed and a creamy condiment that tastes like the result of Captain Planet turning the Earth and the ocean into something you could eat with a spoon.
The dishes gradually get larger, and by the sixth course, you’ll be eating entrée-sized portions, wondering if you can take anything to go. You might get a piece of skate with green curry, for example, and a thick slice of porchetta with a side of charred greens. These may seem straightforward and even a little boring in comparison to the smaller courses - but they’re still delicious, and you’ll appreciate the fact that, once you leave, you’ll want a long walk and not a slice of pizza.
The service is smooth and professional, but it never feels too stiff, so you might even briefly forget you’re at a place where dinner costs as much as a round-trip ticket to Miami. A meal here is more like a really nice dinner party - one where the food is delicious, the napkins are perfectly folded, and no one whispers about your desperate and controlling nature as soon as you leave the room.
The tasting menu here changes frequently, but here are a few examples of dishes you might see.
This seems to be one of the few constants on the menu, and for very good reason. The chickpea puree is a little bit spicy and about as smooth as the saxophone solo in “Careless Whisper,” and it perfectly complements the chilled uni. Get a little of each on your spoon, as well as some of the olive oil from the bottom of your bowl.
If brunch had existed when Louis XIV was alive, this is probably what he would have eaten. It involves a warm soft-boiled egg, a big scoop of caviar, and some tiny potato chips - and it’s excellent. The next time you get a regular plate of eggs, you’ll feel a caviar-sized hole in your life.
A soup of basil seeds and sliced clam that’s just a little bit sweet and a little bit smokey. It’s cold and refreshing, and the pineapple dashi reminds us of waterslides, sprinklers, and 80-degree days.
Throughout your dinner, you might find yourself staring at a large log of porchetta sitting on an island in the middle of the kitchen, wondering if and when you’ll be able to eat it. While it’s very good, you might be a little disappointed by how simple and straightforward it is when it arrives.
The final few courses at Momofuku Ko are desserts, like this bowl of soy ice cream covered in what looks like bird seed (but is in fact a bunch of grains and zest). Like most of the desserts here, it’s very good - but it’s not the highlight of the evening. Consider this the part of the roller coaster ride when you’re still having fun, but everything starts to slow down a bit.